When I was touring a lot, one thing that really stood out about it was how quickly we’d get into a groove. Wake up in the tour bus, shower at the venue, search for food, soundcheck, sit around, play the gig, then get back on the bus to do it all again in a different town. You become so used to it, day-in-day-out, that when the tour finally ends and you go home, you have no idea what to do with yourself. This is the power of routine; do something long enough and you can’t stop. Some routines, like touring, are unsustainable. Others are much more beneficial.
If you care about your health and appearance, your life is likely full of structure and routine. The time you go the gym, the meals you regularly eat, or the supplements you take all play a part. When something throws that routine off, like Christmas, it can feel like you have to start again from scratch. However, if you have a set of core habits that you can fall back on, a minimum effective dose if you like, you won’t have to jump on a massive health kick in January or start all over again after Crimbo.
Having a core set of habits and structure to fall back on is something that I teach all my clients. Trying to get in the shape of your life at Christmas is missing the point. The real goal is simply staying in the game. Your minimum effective dose will be different than mine, but learning about the 4 main habits I fall back on might help you think about your own.
1# Getting Enough Protein At Each Meal
When I have less control over what I’m eating in general, I simply concentrate on getting enough protein at each meal. Focusing on only this gets rid of all the other noise. Eating enough protein will help me feel full, and I also won’t have any problem maintaining or even building muscle.
2# Eating The Same Number Of Meals
There’s no right or wrong where the number of meals you eat is concerned. Eat as few or as many as you want. The issues start when you eat randomly each day. When I have 5 meals one day, two meals the next, then three meals the day after, trouble usually starts.
Your body sends hunger signals at the usual times you eat each day. Random eating, for me, tends to make me snack more, and generally feel hungrier. Sticking to my normal pattern of 3 meals and a snack, even if I’m eating a very small amount, solves this problem.
3# Adopting A Minimal Training Routine
Getting back into the gym habit can be hard for a lot of people. In January, it can seem like a great idea to jump straight into training with weights and doing bags of cardio every single day, but an unsustainable approach like this only causes burnout by February. Most people forget that they’ve been doing perfectly well with three solid days a week all year previously.
For me, the sweet spot during the holidays isn’t to go without training at all but to do enough to keep me feeling strong and to keep some kind of structure. Two full body training sessions a week with about 3 sets a piece from the big hitters like squats, bench, and deads, is all it takes to keep me in the groove and makes it super easy to jump back into my usual 4 days a week when the holidays are over.
4# Getting My Steps In
If you’ve had a long year, I can’t think of anything better than spending Christmas on the couch in front of the TV. However, breaking up the slumber with some activity is a good idea if you want to stay lean and keep the habit of generally being active going. My favourite way to do this is to aim for 10,000 steps, the majority of which will come from morning walks.
Getting in all your steps in at once is fine if you want to make the most of lounging this Christmas, but making it feel like cardio is missing the point. Take the time to enjoy a walk outside.
These tips above help me keep the healthy habits I’ve maintained all year alive, and aid transitioning back into my normal routine after the holidays. Yours may well be different, but the concept remains the same.
You don’t need to rest completely during the holidays or jump into overly ambitious health kicks after Christmas. By focusing on the minimum effective dose of eating and training over the festive period, you’ll pick up right where you left off in January.
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